FORT WAYNE – Greg White hasn’t been in a lot of high-pressure situations, so the Woodlan senior went back to the basics when he had to shoot late, critical free throws.
Recalling the penalty for missing free throws in practice, White knocked down 11 of 12 in the fourth quarter and 7 of 8 in the final 45 seconds in the Warriors’ 62-54 win over Garrett in the ACAC tournament title game at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
In practice, if we miss a free throw, we run, and I just imagined myself missing a free throw and running, so I just knocked them down, said White, who was 12 of 14 overall.
White’s free throws were the final seven points of the game as the Warriors (7-4) extended a one-point lead to an eight-point win, their biggest margin of the game.
What can I say about Greg? Woodlan coach Dave Randall said. He has only been playing three years of organized basketball, and here he is with all this (pressure and crowd noise) making free throws. His teammates have a lot of confidence in him, maybe more confidence than he has in himself sometimes.
After a back-and-forth fourth quarter, Jaylin Bennett hit a free throw with a minute left to give Woodlan a 55-52 advantage.
Garrett’s Justin McCoy made a jumper with 47.9 seconds remaining to trim the margin to 55-54 before White sealed the deal with his free throws.
He is a big clutch factor, Bennett said of White.
The win over the Railroaders (8-3) gave the Warriors their first ACAC boys basketball tournament title since 1997.
To those kids, that’s the stone age, Randall said of the last title 17 years ago. They think we rode our dinosaurs in here and won a tournament.
The seniors have worked so hard and changed the culture of this program. The juniors have a lot to live up to next year.
White finished with 20 points, while Bennett added 14. McCoy, the tournament MVP, had 28 points and 12 rebounds for Garrett.
Garrett took a 45-42 advantage to open the fourth before Woodlan began to take control by knocking down the free throws.
Jeffrey Jones, who scored 11 points before fouling out, made two big free throws in the fourth quarter as the Warriors outscored the Railroaders 20-13.
The fourth quarter has kind of been our undoing, so for us to come back in the fourth was big, Randall said.
It is Woodlan’s 11th ACAC tournament championship.
It means a lot, White said. We wanted to bring home an ACAC championship, and we did.
Woodlan was the tournament runners-up last season, losing to Bluffton 66-58.
We came up short last year, and what mainly drove us was we didn’t want to come up short this year, Bennett said.
We have worked too hard to not get where we wanted. We are just glad to be successful right now.